Tomorrow I leave for Orlando for our annual all-up IT conference of the year in Orlando, Florida. Attendees see this conference as a one-stop week-long update on all IT industry trends, an opportunity to network with thousands of their peers (including more than a thousand CIOs), and an opportunity to have face-to-face one-on-ones (as opposed to phone inquiries) with analysts on tough problems that need actionable advice. And maybe have one last week in some warm weather. Symposium delivers all that. But it delivers something different for me.
Gartner analysts spend tremendous time and effort preparing for this conference. Presentations are due to our editing and multimedia departments weeks in advance, but for some reason, IT doesn’t stop, so there are very few analysts who turn in their work on time. Personally, I always make changes as late as the day of the presentation – that’s just a little more real-world.
I love these conferences. During the year, I spend a large percentage of my time on the phone with clients (600 or so calls this year?). I also visit with clients face-to-face throughout the year (I think I visited with perhaps a hundred this year). However, nothing compares with the density of client conversations that take place at Symposium.
For me, Symposium is about four days of constant client interaction. This year, I’ll deliver two presentations (one on cloud and private cloud computing, one on virtualization), a debate (is private cloud real?), a client roundtable, about 40 one-on-ones, two breakfasts with clients, two lunches with clients, a dinner with one client, and another dinner with a few dozen key CIOs. History says, all remaining open time will disappear as soon as I arrive. This will be solid 7am to 10pm client discussions.
I know they come to get advice from us, but we come to hear about their issues.
There is no better way to measure the pulse of IT users. Every interaction is a specific issue that a decision-maker needs to solve. I’m put on the spot, every thirty minutes or so. Sometimes, I can’t answer a question, but I can usually move them closer to an answer, or line up another Gartner analyst who can. But most of the time, there’s a two-way transfer that takes place – I give the client actionable advice based on 25 years of experience and thousands of real client interactions, and they give me a new and up-to-date real-world issue.
An analyst’s job is about being an expert who can help clients with actionable and strategic advice. But an analyst’s job is also about being a learning machine. There’s a tremendous amount of information out there, and it’s our job to find the important nuggets, filter out the chaff, find the patterns, and determine the actions that help our clients the most. And this is what makes the job interesting and keeps me on top of my game.
This year I’ll be active tweeting during the conference. Of course, nothing confidential about individual clients, but I’ll tweet about the pulse of the market and things that are coming up often (tombitt on Twitter, and I’ll hash my tweets with #GartnerSym).
And for those of you coming to the conference, I’ll see you there, and hope you get as much out of it as I do!